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UNC Football: The weirdest season in Tar Heels history

The 2020 season could be strange, but will it be this strange?

NCAA Football: Duke at North Carolina Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

If it does end up happening, the 2020 North Carolina football season could end up being the weirdest one on record. On the whole, so many conference have already announced that they’re not playing. The Tar Heels will be playing almost an ACC exclusive schedule, featuring Notre Dame as a one of the conference opponents. Oh, and there probably won’t be fans in the stands.

If all that does come to pass, 2020 will probably be the strangest season ever. However until it does happen, it has some stiff competition from the 1900 season.

As we’ve discussed in past historical pieces, the early days of college football, and college sports in general, were pretty weird when viewed in a modern light. UNC’s first ever coach, Hector Cowan, was a Princeton player, who then returned to and continued to play for the Ivy League school after leaving Chapel Hill. In the 1896 season, UNC played Charlotte, Hampton, and Greensboro athletics clubs in three-straight weeks. It doesn’t resemble anything close to what college football is like today.

That brings us to 1900. That year’s squad were led by coach Williams Ayres Reynolds in his fourth season. In his previous three seasons, he had led Carolina to a 23-6-1 record, including an undefeated 9-0 season in 1898. In two of those years, he was also the baseball coach in Chapel Hills, because, again, college sports in that era were weird.

UNC began the 1900 season against a school that the record book lists as “Deaf & Dumb Institute.” Further research shows that it was probably against what is now called the North Carolina School for the Deaf in Morganton, NC. I think we can agree, that’s a more appropriate name. Anyway, Carolina easy got past them with a 38-0 win.

Next up was Virginia Tech, in a game that finished in a 0-0 tie. Games don’t finish in ties today, so that’s different enough. But a 0-0 tie? Frank Beamer is a meme forever for celebrating a game going into overtime at 0-0. I guess he would’ve been proud of his future school for holding UNC scoreless. It should also be noted that this game was 21 days after UNC’s opener. I mention that only to contrast what’s coming next.

That game was on Saturday, October 27th. The following Thursday, UNC made the short turnaround and headed to Knoxville to play Tennessee. Carolina won fairly easily by another odd score of 22-5.

Just two days after that, UNC made the trip to Nashville to play Vanderbilt, where they won 48-0. Just another two days after that, they went to Atlanta and played Sewanee. There, they played in another 0-0 tie. No wonder they were too tied to score any points when playing their fourth game in nine days.

After that, they finally got some rest and didn’t take the field again until November 12th. In that game, they crushed Georgia 55-0. The following weekend, UNC suffered their first setback of the season. They headed up to Charlottesville to play Virginia, but were shutout, losing 17-0.

The season wrapped up the following Thursday when they went to Washington DC to play Georgetown. To wrap up all that, they played another 0-0 tie for the road, finishing with a very dumb 4-1-3 record.

Reynolds left after that season, only to resurface with Georgia in 1902. UNC’s schedules got a little more normal going forward, however there were still a couple crazy quick turnarounds in their future.

After that, let’s see what you’ve got, 2020. Actually, no nevermind, we’ve seen enough from this year.

Sources

https://s3.amazonaws.com/sidearm.sites/unc.sidearmsports.com/documents/2019/7/23/15710_1_Progressive.pdf